There is an eldest child in every family. They are normally characterized as obedient, independent, and reliable.
Our Jenny is no different.
She was in many ways an ideal child. At least I’ve always seen it that way as the doting youngest sister. Jenny to me has always held a strong fascination. She is so beautiful, so refined, so intelligent, everything a young woman ought to be.
I remember watching her get ready for dances, putting on makeup and fixing her hair. I would think ‘If only one day I could be as beautiful as Jenny. Jenny must be perfect.’ I would often sneak into her room and put on makeup myself. I was so proud to be her little sister.
But my mistake was that I could only see the outer beauty of Jenny.
Let me explain.
My mom recalls a story of when Jenny was in Kindergarten. Mom dropped Jenny off at school. She saw a group of little girls from Jen’s class and overheard that there was some sort of dispute or difficult circumstance (something age appropriate such as ‘Person A called Person B a meanie’). They were discussing what to do when one of them had a Eureka moment and said “I know, lets ask Jenny. She always knows what to do.”
So there she was at the tender age of 5 analyzing a situation and coming up with a solution that worked for all parties involved.
And she hasn’t stopped since. She is a true giver of self, contributing to the peace-making of many awkward and frustrating moments in my childhood. She has a desire to help make sense of things and make things right like I have never seen in another human soul. Now this is not just a sweet little aspect of her character, rather it is an intelligence that she possesses. It is a feminine determination to care for and protect others.
Along with this intelligence Jenny has a certain silliness to her. Something you wouldn’t expect from such a refined young woman.
A favorite Hamel memory happened one day in our Killarney house in Chilliwack. If I recall correctly this was a stage in Jennifer’s life where she was very serious and quite grown up, Thank you very much. One day Emme heard a little song coming from the kitchen. It peaked her interest and so she went to investigate. As she came closer she realized the songstress was Jennifer. Emily saw Jenny eating her lunch, a nice bowl of soup to be exact. Emily listened carefully and this is what she heard:
♩ Hello Mister Soup. How are you Mister Soup? I’m going to eat you Mister Soup ♩
Over and over she repeated this. Jenny was singing to her soup with great care and personification. To her horror Jenny eventually noticed Emme and asked her to never tell the story again. Clearly that did not happen. Actually this little story seems to come up quite often. All you have to say or sing is‘♩Hello Mister Soup,♩’ and Jenny gets all red in the face.
Jennifer led us younger children fearlessly. She is credited with pulling Emily away from a moving vehicle just in time to literally save her life. She read to Jeffy tirelessly as a little boy, giving him a great love for knowledge. She changed my stinky diapers armed with rubber gloves, a breathing mask, and an apron. She taught me how to write papers. All of these things great and small show me how much she loves us.
But there were times of great tragedy.
Emily, Jeffrey and myself were playing on the stage left side of the house (if the audience were the road). We were near the back by the porch. On this part of the house there was this amazing old tree tucked right up to the house that had a ton of branches all coming right from the ground. There was no real trunk to it. It made a great backdrop for many adventures. We had taken an old sheet and had placed it from the overhang of the tree to the porch creating a little tented area.
The game of the day was something about an evil Duchess who was terrorizing the poor peasants of the town. We wanted Jenny to play the Duchess, so we hauled her out from her room and explained the scenario. Things proceeded as normal for a few minutes. I was a dramatic little peasant, Jeff spoke up for the peasants invoking our rights and the need for justice, and Emily led us as our great leader to the Duchess.
We went to the tent/palace expecting to have an audience with her, but something was wrong. We looked at Jenny who wore a face of distress. Then with a far off vapid expression she said “I’ve forgotten how to play,” and slowly walked inside.
It felt like my heart had broken.
I’d like to think that there were many tears after this. I’m sure I cried. I always cried. It was a memory we have never forgotten. Our biggest sister had crossed over from fantasy worlds and silly games to the reality of adult life.
But life is a funny thing. Life itself is what in my opinion brought Jenny back to a place of childhood wonder and awe.
You see Jenny married this wonderful man named Darren roughly 8 years ago now. She and her Greek god moved to Saskatoon, far away from the rest of us. While they lived there studying our great and noble country their own family began.Our little Benno joined the fam in a dramatic way in December of 2004.
I think that Benno rocked Jenny’s world in a way she didn’t expect. I can’t speak exactly for her, but I began to observe a change in her. The seriousness of life was still there and her nurturing tendencies were more pronounced than ever.
However, when a little boy is around things can’t help but get a little silly sometimes. You can’t help but go for long walks enjoying the outdoors. You can’t help but play with trucks and cars, and cars, and more cars. You can’t help but spend hours and hours in a playground each month. You can’t help but be a dinosaur with that little boy for an afternoon. You can’t help but read Dr. Seuss over and over again, which is decidedly some of the silliest literature I have ever read and some of the best.
And then when a little bundle of girl named Cate came along, things were silly in a whole new way.
You see when a little girl is around you can’t help but put her in lovely dresses. You can’t help but put her hair in pigtails, even if she pulls them out after a minute. You can’t help but play with My Little Ponies with her. You can’t help but receive several cups of tea from her tea set when she is serving you with great civility for a 2 year old. You can’t help but kiss her sweet little cheeks at every possible opportunity. You can’t help but tell her what it was like being a little girl yourself.
I’ve seen these two little Friesens take my Jenny back to where she used to be before she forgot how to play, even for a few moments each day. And for this I thank them.
I can only imagine what bambino number three has in store for us!
The weekend before I got married Jenny threw me a Stagette. We painted pottery, got dolled up, went for a yummy dinner and Bellini’s, sang our hearts out at Karaoke and then returned to Jen’s house for an unforgettable experience. Jen had each one of the girls go around the circle and affirm me. It was incredible. You see in my heart of hearts I had always imagined something like that might happen in my lifetime. The thing is that my big sister really knows my heart. She knows who I am and how I experience love, because she is just that kind of person.
So now I say to you Jenny that you have a very special place in my heart, and not just because you are so physically beautiful.
The Italian humanist Petrarch said “Rarely do great beauty and great virtue dwell together.”
You are the rarity.
Jenny, I love you in all your intricate plots and plans. I love the look on your face when you are about to figure something out. I love how you were so honest to me in my youth about what true happiness is. I love how you look after your kidlets.
But most of all I love how you look after me.